Mature people don’t say this. I recently read an excellent book by Mike Breen, Multiplying Missional Leaders. Mike addressed a trend in the American church to want to “go deeper” saying the real problem is being misdiagnosed. Mike says, “I think the impulse to “go deep” that people often believe shows their character is essentially spiritual boredom that comes from a stalled discipleship life.” We subtly replace a radical willingness to do what the Word says with a passive learning that stunts spiritual character.
Hungering for God’s Word, wanting to learn and grow in the knowledge of Him is good and right. At Gateway, we’ve always had some forum where people can learn to study verse by verse through books of the Bible (The Gathering Service, Gateway U, Deepen Service). Currently, many are diving deeper in small groups with our Deepen Webisodes we’re delivering to Crowded House and groups (www.gatewaychurch.com/category/deepen). The first two teach you how to study verse by verse.
But ironically, we still find people who say “I can’t grow here” because it’s not at a convenient Sunday morning time. When people jump from church to church wanting to “be fed” or “go deeper” this undermines what it means to truly follow Jesus. It actually weakens us, and His church.
Think about it. What if I said, “I need to be fed physical food by someone.” First, if I’m an adult you’d probably ask, “You can’t feed yourself yet?” But then if I told you, “I just need someone to feed me a really good meal once a week for thirty minutes, and that’s gonna make me strong”—that would be insane! I’d become malnourished, because eating once a week is just not healthy regardless how great that Sunday meal might be. Some people truly need to “be fed,” but not because they are spiritually mature.
When churches act as if they can feed you each Sunday because of their “right” way of teaching, that’s actually more about the pastor’s ego than helping you grow strong. If the average person attended every Sunday of the year, they would only get about 25 hours of teaching a year, versus 1500 hours of TV. Where do you think spiritual formation is really happening? That’s why Sunday teaching, in my opinion, should inspire people to take next steps to trust God more, then catalyze communities of faith that relationally help each other learn to be in His Word and walk with His Spirit daily!
But there’s more to it than that! Jesus warned us that His church should not be focused more on gaining knowledge than putting into practice the things you learn. “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, [he is] like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock.” (Luke 6:46-48) What if every Christ follower simply read His Word daily with the intent of actually doing what He says. The church would grow strong!
Jesus’ church is not a learning institution. It’s a Body! If we are not connected relationally to the Head (John 15:5) and to one another, building each other up in love, serving the world around us with our gifts as one Body (Ephesians 4:11-15), we are being deceived to think we are growing mature. “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” (1 Cor. 8:1) Knowledge is valuable, as long as commitment to relationships in a church are more valued. Commitment and relationship make the body strong.